Right Turn: Synthetic biology predicted to become a huge industry

Author: Stacey Johnson, 02/10/17

There is a trend in the regenerative medicine field to include gene therapies when describing the work being performed by academics and industry, as in “cell and gene therapies.” The wider definition better reflects how the industry is evolving and acknowledges the dual focus. I expect the same may happen with synthetic biology’s role in regenerative medicine.

Until Medicine by Design launched at the University of Toronto (U of T), I don’t recall coming across the term synthetic biology, but developing synthetic biology tools is an area of focus for this interdisciplinary group consisting of biologists, engineers, mathematicians and clinicians. You can watch this video of Dr. Peter Zandstra, CSO of CCRM and Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering at U of T,  describing the new program and explaining that computational biology and synthetic biology adds to the regenerative medicine toolbox as another way of “designing cells, tissues and organs from the ground up.”

Andrew Hessel’s enthusiasm for synthetic biology is infectious. Hessel is a futurist and a Distinguished Research Scientist with Autodesk who was speaking about synthetic biology back in 2009. In the video below, he makes the provocative statement that synthetic biology “will touch every area of humanity.” So why would a technology company like Autodesk be interested in something biological? Hessel says synthetic biology is complex and data heavy, and he predicts that it will be the “next big digital industry.” Further, he says it will be one of the “biggest industries in the world over the next few decades.” Wow.

If the idea of a tool to program living cells interests you, or you’re inspired by the notion of cells that act as “a 3D printer for thousands of different compounds,” you won’t want to miss this video.


Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.
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